It sat dormant in the courtyard of downtown's CityScape, inflated but unused, during the early weeks of summer. Despite the hype and anticipation, the shopping center's summer surfing attraction seemed in danger of bailing out before it even got off the ground. But the slow start paid off, bringing the ocean to desert dwellers right in their own backyard.
Surfing on Central provides artificial wave simulation for would-be, landlocked surfers who can't make it to the beach. Measuring 400 square feet and using approximately 38,000 gallons of water, the inflatable FlowRider, the device is the first of its kind from the California-based company of the same name.
"When we came up with the concept we wanted something kind of like what we do here at Christmas with the ice rink. Just like the first year we brought the ice rink we encountered some unexpected circumstances," said Céline Rille, CityScape's marketing director. "[The FlowRider team] weren't super happy with the style of the wave that was coming off it at first, so it took a little bit of time to make sure we had a great ride so that everybody could enjoy themselves."
With over 180 global installations and the creation of it's own sport, FlowBoarding courtesy of employees Rob Chalfant and Adam Muller, the FlowRider is proving to be a crowd-pleaser and perfect distraction from the summer heat.
"Jeff Moloznik, who's our director of development, had actually seen the FlowRider out in San Diego and he just thought it was such a fun experience," Rille said. "We figured everyone goes to San Diego in the summer, why not bring San Diego here instead?"
Despite the delay and ever-changing "debut" dates that circled around, the waterworks are drawing adults and families alike. Children tend to ride the waves during the daytime, Rille said, while she sees more of an adult crowd in the afternoons.
"It's pretty fun to see people body boarding in the middle of downtown Phoenix. Earlier in the day there's a lot more kids out there having a lot of fun -- you know, they're so bold even on their first session alone standing up and things," she said. "I'd definitely say the adults are taking their time a little bit more and doing more body boarding."
Sessions range from 30 minutes ($10) to an hour ($15), though memberships and private lessons are available with prices from $125 to $350 depending on selection. Discount coupons for $5 off can be found at the Arizona Science Center and Crescent Ballroom, among others.
Surfing on Central also offers weekly deals and beach-related events throughout the summer. Every Thursday night from 5 to 7 p.m. is Ladies' Night, featuring buy-one-get-one-free tickets. The Beach Blanket Film Series, taking place at 8 p.m. on Friday, August 22, will show surf movies on the big screen. The free event encourages moviegoers to bring their own beach chairs and blankets for a faux sand-and-surf experience.
Though Rille was unsure what exactly the FlowRider cost CityScape, public relations firm for RED Development (the company behind the retail epicenter) says it does not divulge its financials.
"RED does not disclose costs on programming and amenities," wrote Jan Bracamonte of J. Lauren PR & Marketing in an e-mail to New Times.
Whatever the cost, Rille seems confident that thanks to the event's popularity among desert-bound Phoenicians, the FlowRider will return next summer.
"The hope is that is will become an annual event," she said.
Open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays at CityScape, at First and Washington Streets. Available through Sunday, August 31. Admission is $10 for a 30-minute session, $15 for a 60-minute session. Free to watch. Parking in the CityScape garage is $3 per hour. Visit www.cityscapephoenix.com/flowrider for details or call 602-772-3900 for more information.
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